Strength and Conditioning in team sports:
Team sports, to a greater extent than many individual sports, rely on tactical and skill components that for a long time were seen as the only thing that separated success from failure. Sport science would not disagree that the sport is priority number one for players, but does try to explain how other, more discreet qualities influence the expression of that sport skill. Tactics and technical skill can be described as cognitive components of team sports that need huge levels of learning and rehearsal through practice in both physical and mental training.
The underlying physiological and neurological abilities that allow these skills to be produced, produced continually or produced repeatedly at speed are where the SnC coaches role comes into play. It is not our position to ‘teach’ the sport. Instead, we enhance the players ability to put into practice the lessons from technical coaches and managers.
Take a simple example of ‘Jonny’, our fictional team sports player. The sport is not important for this context but you can insert your sport for ease of understanding…
Jonny’s Stats: (marked out of 10)
Sporting Skill level: 10
Acceleration ability: 7
Max speed: 6
Change of direction (CoD) ability: 5
Anticipation/tactical skill level: 7
You may already know where this is heading. If not, put Jonny into a short sporting scenario. He is going for a 50/50 challenge and needs to win possession in order to prevent the opposing team scoring. Remember, any sport.
What should be clear is that if Jonny’s opponent is better at accelerating and stronger than him, Jonny won’t get a chance to use his skill. However good Jonny is at his sport, if his opponent beats him to the ball/space his skill is irrelevant.
Jonny gets tired, we all do at some point. Lets say his metaphorical stats drop to this after 50mins of playing time:
Sporting Skill level: 7
Acceleration ability: 6
Max speed: 5
Change of direction (CoD) ability: 4
Anticipation/tactical skill level: 6
Now Jonny wants to accelerate into another challenge but has to change direction first to do so. The increased risk of injury through poor movement control is one danger. Collision with the opposing team player is another. That’s if he makes it there before the opponent who is still faster, stronger and better at changing direction. Even if the opponents skill level is 4/10 he beats Jonny to the ball, makes his pass and the opposing team wins the point.
The most important take away from this example is that all of the above qualities are trainable to certain extents. A good coach will be able to identify and quantify them in order to decide how much time should be devoted to improving each. There are of course other factors in sports performance, but the better each and every player is across these factors the more chance they have of success. This is not to play down the importance of skill level, tactical ability and decision making. Rather it is a reminder that without adequate physical ability, players have less time to use skill, more chance of injury and less chance of success as fatigue increases. Build your players’ base.